Lost Spear is one of those games that looks and sounds really cool when talked about amongst fans or seen in footage, but the reality is of it is a lot different. When I first heard about the game and saw the trailers for it, I was really excited. The soundtrack was great, the story was intriguing, the gameplay looked nostalgic and somehow new, and best of all, you could play it on the Nintendo Switch. I was sold almost immediately. Fast-forward a few months and, while I’d had every intention to purchase and play the game, I was still working my way through a bunch of other recent releases. Then Brank of the Super BS Gamescast told me that it was on sale. Thirty-five dollars seemed like a steal. So I purchased the game and couldn’t be more excited to dive into this fantasy world of celestial mystery.
Developed by Tokyo RPG Factory and published by Square Enix, Lost Sphear tells the story of a young man named Kanata, who has the ability to use memories to bring things back that have been lost to the world. Without getting into the swamp that is Lost Sphear’s story, I’ll give you a quick outline. In the world of Lost Sphear, the moon has dominion over the Earth. For thousands of years the cycles of the moon have brought about and ended the ages of man. When one age comes to an end, things get “lost” or disappear. This can include people, places, items, and even entire kingdoms. Whether it’s because these lost things fade from people’s memories or the moon is just a dick, they never really clarify. Somewhere down the line, a man named Krom decides that he’s had enough, and decides that the moon won’t rule over him, he’s going to rule over the moon. He creates a weapon that will siphon the moons power into his own body, thus making him the god of that world, and he succeeds . . . sort of. As always with JRPGs, there’s the catch, and that catch has to do with disembodied timelines.
As you find out later on, all of those things took place several hundred years before the events of the game, and our buddy Krom has been manipulating mankind since for his own nefarious purposes. The game opens with Kanata, and his friends Lumina and Locke discovering Kanita’s ability to bring back things that are lost using the memories of slain monsters. PETA would have a field day with this game. As usual with these types of games, there’s an empire that lies to the main characters, commits atrocities, and ultimately gets forgotten by the time the game ends. As you progress, you journey to different places across the map, meet new people, kill monsters, and travel through time in a desperate attempt to save the world.
Despite the poorly written and confusing narrative, there were quite a few aspects of the game that could be considered fun or interesting. The ability to play through the game in less than thirty hours was appealing and almost unheard of for a JRPG. This is mostly due to the fact that as you level up your characters, the ones that aren’t in your party gain experience points, as well. And instead of random encounters, everything is clearly visible and you can choose to not fight if you want, but unlike most games in the genre, if you fight every creature in your path as you play along the narrative, you’ll reach level fifty by the time you fight the last boss. The combat is also worthy of mention. I’m a huge fan of the way they set it up. You don’t change to a battle screen when encountering foes, instead, the edges of the screen get locked off at certain points until you defeat the enemies. If you’re using a character with a large or long weapon, you can hit multiple foes when they’re standing right next to each other. If you’re using characters like Van or Locke, who have projectile based weapons, you can line them up in certain ways, and they’ll hit every enemy in their projectile’s path. It makes combat easier, but at the same time, sort of challenging because it’s tactical as opposed to just attacking, buffing, and healing.
The open world map is something that – as a gamer that grew up in the ‘90s – I’ve missed a great deal. Lost Sphear brings that map back, allowing you to travel across the landscape, restoring points of interest that have been lost and giving you the option to gain a bevvy of perks for every place you restore that you can use as long as you’re in that region. A game mechanic that I was actually incredibly fond of is the ability to talk to your party members and get advice about what to do next. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been playing a game like this and couldn’t figure out where to go. In this game, you press a button and they recommend places. For those of you who don’t like to have your hand held in games, you might not like this, but for the more casual JRPG fan like myself, it saved a lot of time. As for the different locations, they did a decent job of making each place feel big and non-linear. Each village has something unique about it, whether it’s the things happening in the village, the music, or points of interest. They’re all fun to explore. The dungeons don’t exactly benefit from those things in an exploration standpoint, but there are enough hidden items and points of curiosity in each of them to merit a few extra minutes of exploration.
Now for the bad . . . this might get lengthy. So in the words of the great Samuel L. Jackson circa 1993, when some dude decided it would be a good idea to bring dinosaurs back to life, “hold on to your butts.” One of the things that the developers of Lost Sphear seem to really love is mechanized armor. There’s a point in the game, where you’re exploring the ruins of a civilization that belonged to the metal or iron ones, where you’ll gain the ability to use mechanized armor called vulcosuits. Buried in the garbage truck of subplots in this game is a cautionary tale about how our reliance on technology will one day be our downfall. Why not teach that lesson by making players rely on technology? Makes sense, right? Sure. While it was clear that the developers wanted these suits to heavily influence the way you play the game, the vulcosuit mechanics made them more a nuisance than anything else. For example, while wearing these suits in combat, your hit points were drastically increased, as well as your defense, but once you use the suit’s special technique, you would often have to wait anywhere from three to five turns to use it again, thus making the vulcosuit about as useful in battle as a stool or a lamp. A smart player would use these suits to chain attacks and deal heavy amounts of damage. Then again, a smart player probably wouldn’t have become that invested in this game. In the end, the vulcosuit mechanics make the game feel more crowded than it needs to be and are ultimately unnecessary, because if you’re party is leveled enough, you can do more damage without them.
Now . . . let’s talk about that story. The story in Lost Sphear is like a nice car given to a teenager. It starts out looking amazing and has limitless potential, but when it reaches the end of its trajectory, it’s barely recognizable as anything at all. I get what they were trying to do. They were trying to recapture the magic of text dialogue JRPG classics like Final Fantasy VII and Chrono Trigger, but by making over half of the game non-sensical dialogue, it becomes exhausting, and I fast forwarded through most of it. Here are some specific points about the story that I didn’t like. One, they couldn’t decide if they wanted the empire to be good or bad. They point out flaws, make people do evil things, and then ultimately end up helping the good guys. There’s a boss fight in the game, where you take on a man named Zemrode, who is in charge of the army. He destroys half a continent and then loses to you in battle and says that he was possessed by an evil spirit or something. There are no hard feelings, amongst the cast. They sort of forgive him like “shit happens.” Then earlier in the game, the empire promises to look after your buddy Locke who gets injured trying to protect Kanata, and they turn him into a robot. Not only do they miss a great chance for drama here, they make it seem like he’s better off as a robot, and your party doesn’t have any anger or resentment towards the ones who did it. Everything about the writing of this game is awful. All of the chances they have to go in depth with their characters and tell stories that would make people feel attached to them, they throw away, and all of the chances to talk about things that nobody really cares about, they dwell on. Not only that, but everything is so damn convenient. There’s a part where Kanata is dying, and one of the people in your party decides that he’s not quite dead, and despite having his spine nearly severed, tells you to pick him up and carry him across the continent. Not only do you forgive the guy who did it, you welcome him back into your party like he’s a long lost friend.
I could go on about all of this, and there’s a lot more elements in the game that could and should be discussed, but there’s no point. It’ll be just as confusing to read as it is for me to write. In the end, Lost Sphear is far from the game that it was made out to be. I appreciate what they were trying to do by recapturing elements of old JRPGs, but as this failed attempt proves, it’s not always the gameplay mechanics that make games fun. With something that relies so heavily on a story to propel the game forward, the writing has to be good. Not only was the writing in this game not good, it was exhaustingly bad. I did enjoy being able to play it on the go with my Nintendo Switch, but that hardly makes it worth the sixty dollar price tag. This is the first game in a long time that I literally had to force myself to finish. I had to force myself to finish it so that I could write this review, and this review isn’t even that good. I give this game a four out of ten.
Reviewed by: Josh Pederson
Played On: Nintendo Switch (Also on available on PS4)